Hope for the best, but expect little change.
It’s a highly misguided notion to believe that an opposition party in Norway, regardless of it’s ‘right-wing’ credentials, is able to bypass it’s own culture steeped in antisemitism as it assumes the reigns of power. The warning signs are there. The Norwegian Progress Party’s recent open slap of The Finns party, chaired by openly pro-Israel Timo Soini, with false accusations of it being ‘anti-immigration’ despite the facts, shows an acute attentiveness by Progressive Party leaders in how it’s being perceived by its peers, and any resulting criticism, which means a willingness to adhere to strict political narratives already laid down by the Norwegian political/cultural establishment.
Will Norway’s new government stem tide of anti-Semitism?
By Jeffrey F. Barken/JNS.org
Earlier this month, conservative candidates in Norway won landslide elections, deposing the Labour party majority that has ruled for nearly a decade. Many are hopeful that the new government will address social intolerance in Norway, including the rampant anti-Semitism affecting a population of nearly 2,000 Jews.
But Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, an author who has written extensively on the prejudices facing Norway’s Jewish community, is skeptical that Norwegians will be able to forget their prejudices. He uses the phrase “part-time anti-Semitism” to describe common attitudes and to highlight the general public’s susceptibility to bias.
“In its origins, Lutheranism promoted Jew hatred,” Gerstenfeld tells JNS.org, recalling Norway’s long history of intolerance. “Norway was the last country in Europe to admit Jews in the mid-19th century.”
At the heart of the new conservative coalition stands Erna Solberg, nicknamed “Iron Erna.” Elected Sept. 9, she will succeed Jens Stoltenberg and will be Norway’s second female prime minister.
Gerstenfeld argues that many discriminatory instincts and old-world anti-Semitic beliefs about Jews still influence perspectives on the modern Jewish community. He cites a study commissioned by the Oslo Municipality in 2011 that found that one third of the Jewish children there are harassed physically or verbally at least two or three times a month, and that 38 percent of Norwegians believe that Israel is a Nazi state.
“I have never heard of such figures before in Western Europe,” Gerstenfeld says.
Anders Behring Breivik’s infamous 2011 terrorist attack confirmed the worst regarding intolerance in Norwegian society. Following the mass shooting at a Worker’s Youth League camp that left 69 people dead, the facility was discovered to house vicious anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda. Teenagers participating in the program prior to the attack were routinely subjected to an indoctrinating hate campaign.
Biased reporting on Israel has created a poisoned atmosphere in which outrageous political cartoons depicting Jews as Nazis circulate, and boycotts of Israel are common. “It is widely known that the Norwegian media has been heavily subsidized by the Labour government,” Norwegian author Hanne Nabintu Herland tells JNS.org.
Herland also confirms the failure of the ousted Labour government to confront the problem of the anti-Semitic indoctrination of youths. “Nothing has been done to de-radicalize the Labour party’s youth groups in the aftermath of Breivik,” she says. “Here in Norway, no one has reacted much to that. As far as I know, only one Norwegian, a prominent, internationally acclaimed ship owner and billionaire, Dan Odfjell, wrote an article where he spoke about the problem, but he was heavily attacked for ‘slandering our youth groups with horrible words.’”